When You Pray for & Love Your City

photo credit: athensboy.wordpress.com

This past Sunday, our church partnered with 15 local churches to pray for 18,000 homes in the city of Rowlett, TX (just outside Dallas).

Our church gathered together for worship, a message of encouragement, instructions, and then our leaders sent us off. I teamed up with an incredible family in our church, Judy and Ali Master, along with their four children.

A Prayer of Blessing

I didn’t quite know what to expect with this kind of event, but I knew that there is power in prayer and you never know the hardship, chaos, or disfunction going on inside someone’s house. All of us have experienced pain in some way or another. We were being sent out to pray this prayer of blessing over each home:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

During the first few homes we prayed for, we noticed a middle schooler riding his bike on the road. He rode up on the sidewalk and we introduced ourselves. His name was Ryan and he attended the school our church met in right down the road.

I told him what we were doing and I asked him if he wanted to join us. I figured he’d think I was wacky for asking such a question, but I wanted him to know we noticed and cared about him.

He responded with a sincere “No” and rode off. I was a little disappointed but I couldn’t blame him! We were complete strangers.

An Unexpected Breakthrough

We continued on our walk, discreetly praying for each home. Ryan was still riding his bike just ahead of us. I told Judy and her daughter, Molly, about how interesting it was that he was still “with us” an hour into it all. They’d been thinking the same exact thing.

Towards the end of our designated houses, Judy engaged in more conversation with him and invited him to our church. He opened up more and said his parents were divorced and that he might be at his dad’s on the weekend. We told him whatever he could do was fine.

The Master’s and I headed to our cars to load up, and Ryan rode over near my van. He asked me some questions about my kids and told me more about the dynamics of his family. I was amazed at how nice he was and how natural it was to talk to him. He was totally different than when we’d first met.

Then he asked what time our church started because he forgot. I told him when to come and he said he was going to try and make it this coming Sunday.

Living, Learning, Loving Redemptively

I was so excited about Ryan’s willingness to join us. I believe he saw Christ living through us and that light was attractive. It was encouraging that our prayers to make a difference in someone’s life were being answered.

Being on mission with the Master’s created a special bond between us as we worked together to reach out to Ryan and love on him. At the end of the day, whether he comes to our church this Sunday or not, I just hope that he knows he’s loved and prayed for and that ultimately he will come to know Christ.

Acts 29 church planter, Jonathan Dodson, says:

The power of redemption, in turn, changes the heart of man who can change his culture and his city. Liberated from the power and penalty of sin, the redeemed are released into true humanity. In turn, we devote ourselves to living, learning, and loving redemptively.  (See Article: “Hate the City, Love the City”)

When redemption is truly understood and lived out in our daily life, it becomes impossible not to pray for and love the people inhabiting our cities. How convicting and challenging this is, but what a joy to be apart of the redemption God desires for each and every person we come in contact with.

How are you doing at loving your city?

On Loving People for Who They Are: Meet Danny

Danny bags groceries at the Kroger we shop at every week. He’s in his 30s and has a disability where he speaks and walks slowly. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to help show my two-year-old John that people like Danny are to be acknowledged and treated just like anyone else, no matter if they look or act differently.

So, I would whisper into John’s little ear: “Can you say hi to Danny, John?”

“Hi, Danny!” he would say and Danny would smile.

One day we had two carts of groceries to haul out and John told me he wanted Danny to push the cart he was sitting in. Not Momma. It was precious. Danny took the cart and John was absolutely delighted.

Yesterday, as soon as we got to Kroger, John asked where Danny was and I thought to myself:

John gets it

I realize the innocence in John’s heart. He sees the world in a lens that my tainted eyes do not see. He is a child and doesn’t fully understand the differences in people, but I believe he comprehends more than I think. He has a unique sensitivity towards Danny that is convicting.

The truth is that “Danny’s” are everywhere. God has been really impressing upon my heart to be intentional about loving people who are different than me and who I wouldn’t naturally start up a conversation with or even hang out with. He is teaching me about compassion and mercy.

People, no matter their race, differences, or disabilities deserve to be loved because they are created in the image of God. And as a Christian, I’ve been called to love all people, especially the unlovable.

I have to admit that I struggle at times with elevating myself or judging someone based on external appearances. And I know that it’s not only shallow, but it’s sinful. I’ve been moved by the verse:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:42

This verse has not only challenged me when it comes to watching my judgmental thoughts towards people, but it has shown me that I have my own set of issues, habits, quirks, inconsistencies, disabilities and more. They might not be so obvious, but they still exist. Most of all, I’m learning about my own brokenness and God’s perfection.

Through a process, and I mean process, God is helping me to get the big, fat plank out of my own eye. Did I mention it’s big? He’s continuing to use people like Danny to teach me some big truths about the meaning of love.

The innocence and purity I get to see in John’s heart is what I need desperately and I’m willing to let God really mess with me so that I’ll truly love people for who they are. Plain and simple.

Has anyone stumbled upon your path that you need to love unconditionally? Do you have a “Danny” story?

* Name changed to Danny to protect privacy

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

In September 2007, I attended the North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference. At that time, I was a year out of getting my Master’s, I’d interned for two well-known Christian publishing companies, I’d been published in several magazines and contributed to two teen books.

But I was itching for more. I just couldn’t put my fingers on what it was.

That’s when I sat under the writing workshops of authors James Watkins and Christopher Maselli. I took to heart their advice:

Every writer needs to have a blog.

Christopher had a workshop dedicated solely to helping you start a blog. I wrote down all his notes, came home, and started what you’re reading today on WordPress.com.

I didn’t know much about blogging, I just wanted a space to write and the opportunity to hear from readers. The same is true today.

Sure, I research how to write good blog posts. I subscribe to CopyBlogger.com. I frequent blogs of writers and authors I enjoy and respect. But at the end of the day, I simply write from my heart. I figure a day will come when blogging is no longer cool, and that’s okay because I’ll still keep writing.

One of my newest readers, Meg Pieroway, asked if I had any tips or advice about blogging as she’s launching a Christian blog soon. I smiled when I read her comment because I was already thinking about writing something about my journey in blogging. So thank you, Meg, for the nudge.

I hope these tips will help many of you as you pursue your passion to write.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

1.) Be Yourself. You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s true. Learn and grow from bloggers you love, but remember their voice is not yours. Take advantage of the fact that there is no one like you in this world and that’s how God wanted it to be. There is someone who needs to hear your voice.

2.) Write When You Don’t Feel Like It. Emotions come and go, but the truth is that you love to write. Take the first step and start typing. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love again and get hooked into some kind of post. Either way, you’ll be glad you chose discipline and commitment over your feelings.

3.) Never Publish Your First Draft. Writing is an art and takes time to craft. Write your post, sit on it for a few hours or a day, and come back to it to edit, shorten, proof-read, simplify, and tighten. You’ll be amazed at what you want to change and reword to make the post better.

4.) Don’t Get Hung Up On Blog Traffic. It’s exciting when you get 500 hits a day on your blog and you check the stats throughout the day to watch them soar. But in my experience, blog traffic can be a major distraction and can put you in a good or bad mood.

You’re writing for God, yourself, and your tribe or niche. Stats are important to make sure people are actually reading, but keep first things first.

5.) Reply to Readers’ Comments. Your readers are responding to your posts partly because they want you to know they’re reading. And deep down, they’d love your response. Who wouldn’t? This doesn’t mean you have to respond to every. single. one. but you want them to know you care.

6.) Work Hard at the Craft of Writing. Discipline always requires sacrifice. The writing life isn’t an easy road and success doesn’t happen over night. Some bloggers are successful right off the bat and their blog turns into a book. But for the majority of bloggers it takes years to hone your skill, know your audience, and find your voice. Writing on a regular basis will pay off.

7.) Share Your Blog Posts on Facebook, Twitter, & Other Social Networking Sites. Who needs one more post in their news feed, right? Well your post might be the one that someone desperately needs to read on that particular day. Social networking sites are a perfect way to get the word out about your blog and to connect with readers. And they’re great for finding other writers with your interests.

8.) Be Discerning With Self-Promotion. In the publishing business, having a platform and being willing to market yourself is crucial. That’s just the rules of the game. As writers who follow Christ, there is a fine line when it comes to the sins of pride, vanity, and boasting.

I haven’t figured all of it out yet, but be cautious and discerning in the ways you let others know about your work. Check your motives and your heart. Is your purpose to draw attention to yourself, or to edify and equip?

9.) Mark Your Writing with Authenticity. Our generation craves it and the Lord knows the church needs more of it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or share your weaknesses and struggles. People will relate to you all the more if they know you’re human.

When I read posts, I often ask: Where is the conflict or struggle? If one doesn’t exist, I question it. Conflict is a natural part of life.

10.) Don’t Ever Give Up. I wanted to quit blogging at one point. It was difficult and I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, in the timing I desired. I eventually discovered that it was all about me and God showed me I needed to get out of the way. He had bigger plans for my writing. And he used many people to encourage me in that, especially the words of a friend and reader, Scott McCreedy.

There were also times I wrote to please people and that did nothing but hinder me. So I renewed myself in my passion to write and didn’t worry about those latter things. Now, I see blogging as another tool for God to use my writing however he wants and I’m just happy to get to do what I love.

If writing is a gift God has given you, push back whatever lies are roaming around in your head and keep at it! This world needs your voice.

Now it’s your turn to chime in. What have I left out? Blogger or non-blogger, what do you think it takes to be a great blogger? 

Above photo credit: lsgeekster.blogspot.com

Sexual Purity: Is the Fight Really Worth It?

I remember picking up the phone and calling my mom to share a struggle I had. I was in seminary and had just started dating my husband Jeremiah. I had a strong attraction to him spiritually, emotionally, and physically and I felt like temptations to compromise my purity were all around me.

I shared with my mom how I couldn’t wait to get married so those struggles would disappear. She paused for a minute and shared a very important truth:

“Samantha, even when you’re married, you’ll have to work hard at your purity….

I’m writing for StartMarriageRight.com today. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts over there. Continue Reading…

An Anthem of His Faithfulness

Every seat in the chapel was filled. The doors on each side stayed open for Michigan’s August breeze to make its way in. I looked for a place to sit and found a spot on the end of a pew. As I sat down, I felt relieved that my husband was keeping the kids so I could have some time to sit and be still. Besides, this was my vacation.

God, I want to hear you tonight, I prayed. It’s so hard to hear you when the daily grind can get so noisy.

Sara Groves started playing the piano and singing:

I can’t remember a trial or a pain He did not recycle to bring me gain

I can’t remember one single regret In serving God only, and trusting His hand

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

I tried to recollect a time when God was unfaithful to me and I simply could not. Even at a point in my life when I chose the temporal pleasures of sin over following Him, He remained faithful- patiently pursuing me and calling me to his side.

And all the needs I have ever had, great or small, he has provided regardless of my worry and doubt.

I thought about the concerns and fears I have with the future and I was comforted that God those too, but my uncertainties don’t change the fact of Who He Is. And if I had to follow Him all over again, in the joys and the hardships, I would still surrender my life to Him.

Sara played on and transitioned into the old hymn:

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

A man in his 60s stood up as she sang. I imagined his life and the possible trials he has probably faced. I thought about how he’s further along in the journey than I. Then another person in the distance stood and then another. I got goosebumps. Before I knew it, handfuls of people were standing.

Knots grew tight in my throat. God had been so faithful to me and rarely did I thank Him and stand upon that. I felt such conviction. My pride tried to keep me planted in that hard wooden pew, but I rose to my feet anyway. Tears filled my eyes and I confessed to God where I had fallen short.

God, forgive me for not regularly expressing gratitude to you for all you have done. Change me.

I observed all that was happening around me and soon enough, everyone was standing. Some lifted their hands in humbleness. God’s presence filled the air and it was heavenly and so sweet. It didn’t matter what journey any of us had traveled, this was our anthem together.

An anthem of His faithfulness.

Daring to Risk a Little More

“I want to go up there!” my son John shouted pointing to the white monkey bars off in the distance. They were really high and obviously not suited for his age, but we wanted to let him try. Besides, great determination was in his eyes.

We ran over to the monkey bars and my husband lifted him up. His little fingers latched on to the first bar and he made it to the next. He tried to hold on, but he lost his grip.

“All done!” he cried.

Daddy pulled him down and after a few minutes, even though it was a little scary, you could tell he was satisfied with the attempt.

John’s zeal to go just a little further taught me a lot about my own faith. Often, I’m content and comfortable to stay “elementary” in my faith instead of maturing and growing up towards godliness.

Pursuing more in my faith requires discipline and discipline is hard work. I think that’s why I’m quick to remain put and not take risks that seem difficult or even impossible by human standards.

But God has called me to something so much greater. He calls me to step out of comfort and into living on mission for Him, meaning that I must give MORE.

  • Giving more in the way I serve others for no other reason but love.
  • Giving more in the way I raise my children and love and respect my husband.
  • Giving more in the way I use my gifts and abilities so that others will be edified and equipped.
  • Giving more in the way I share the resources and money God has entrusted to me.
  • Giving more in the way I proclaim the gospel to whoever God puts on my path.

Failure, disappointment, and conflict are all risks that come with this kind of giving and it is radical. But the joy and fullness and blessing of knowing God through giving more away is irreplaceable—bringing me just a little bit closer to complete maturity and Christ-likeness.

John was craving more when he saw those big kid monkey bars. While he was innocent of the dangers, he trusted in his daddy to help him reach each challenge.

So it is with God.

What areas in your life do you need to give more? What are you risking?

When World War III Comes to Your Kitchen (& other marriage thoughts)

A few nights ago, my husband and I got into a big argument. We had just gotten home from a long day of flying. We were over-tired and not thinking straight. Words flew carelessly in the air and we threw verbal punches at each other, back and forth.

It was one of those moments where you would be ashamed if anyone took a peep through your door.

While we were on vacation, award-winning Christian song-writer Sara Groves was in concert where we were staying and before one of her songs, she told us she wasn’t going to be ashamed to expose any “dirty laundry” and that she wanted to be transparent with us. She talked about the fights her and her husband have had before.

I resonated with her words and appreciated her brutal honesty. I had thought: Wow, she struggles too? Sara talked a little more and began playing the keys. Here’s what she sang:

We just had a World War III here in our kitchen – We both thought the meanest things

And then we both said them – We shot at each other till we lost amunition

This is how I know our love – This is when I feel it’s power

Here in the absence of it – This is my darkest hour

When both of us are hunkered down – And waiting for the truce

All the complicated wars – They end pretty simple

Here when the lights go down – We roll to the middle

No matter how my pride resists – No matter how this wall feels true

No matter how I can’t be sure – That you’re gonna roll in too

No matter what, no matter what – I’m going to reach for you

(song: “Roll to the Middle”)

I was reminded of our arguments in the past, and how there were sure to be more in the future but how I’ve experienced that our love is always stronger. After Jeremiah and I were finished taking jabs, we came to our senses. We agreed to go to bed and talk in the morning and that we were way overtired.

That morning, I confessed my pride and how I wasn’t even making sense. Jeremiah confessed where he was wrong and we forgave each other. I was reminded of Sara’s song and how true it was in our marriage.

with Sara Groves and my little girl, Rebekah

It didn’t matter what we were arguing about, the truth was that we are for each other. We are on the same team and our love is bigger than any of our petty conflicts. The foundation of our love is Christ.

We were also reminded that on our vacation God blessed us with an incredible, life-changing time, free of any conflicts, and how it would be foolish to allow that disagreement to close out an amazing trip.

Pride turned into humility and that night we rolled to the middle, at peace in our relationship.

Taking a Writing Break (Vacation time!)

Lake Michigan, Photo credit: Destination360.com

I’ve been anticipating our vacation for what seems like all summer now and it’s finally here!

Tomorrow we’re flying out to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. I experienced Lake Michigan for the first time shortly after Jeremiah and I were married as he’s from there. I fell in love with the fresh water, sand dunes, and the overall natural beauty.

We’re excited to have some R & R as a family and we’re praying it will be a time of spiritual refreshment and renewal as well. I’ll be taking a break from writing until mid-August.

I’ll look forward to jumping back into it when we get back. Until then… I won’t be doing much that requires thinking 🙂 Thankful for each of you.


Devotional: Cry Out for Wisdom

Key verses: Proverbs 26:8; 16:16; 21:21; 28:26

Picture this. You’re walking down the street and a man screams out of a window at the top of his lungs: “Hey! Yes, I’m talking to you! I know you can be naïve and foolish, and I want to warn you—discern prudence and discern wisdom in your life! Cry out for it! I warn you! Cry out for wisdom!”

Strangely enough, this is how I picture the urgency that is invoked in these verses. If the writer could literally shout out from the pages of Proverbs into our hearts, he most certainly would want us to see the need for wisdom in our lives.

Discarding wisdom could cost your whole life. There is a necessity to cry out to God for wisdom because wisdom is not from people, but from God. We cannot discern wisdom in our own strength. God says to ask for wisdom without doubting and you’ll receive it generously.

Are you applying wisdom to your heart and embracing it with all you have? Keep along the path of wisdom, and your life will continue to abound in fruit. Keep along the path of foolishness and your life will be destructive.

Contrasting Wisdom and Foolishness:

Wisdom: Help others with good advice, Enjoy wisdom, Cautious with reason, Seek knowledge, Value wisdom above riches, Receive life, Respond to correction, Pursue wisdom, Profit from correction, Trust in wisdom, Control anger, Admired as counselors, Rewarded with knowledge, Keep peace, Stay on straight paths, Avoid wicked paths, Have great advice

Foolishness: Lack judgment, Enjoy foolishness, Gullible, Avoid the wise, Feed on foolishness, Receive punishment, Respond to punishment, Pursue illusive dreams, An example to others (proud), Trust in self, Unleash anger, Inherit folly, Stir up anger, Go in the wrong way, Walk a troublesome path, Will never be chosen as counselor

This devotional was published in Collegiate Magazine, January 2006-07 issue, pg. 15 © Samantha Krieger. All Rights Reserved. 

Finding Hope in the Valley

This past year, eternity has been on my mind a lot. A close friend of our family was diagnosed with breast cancer, tragedy struck with the loss of an old friend, and I’ve experienced hardships in motherhood and marriage and my own sinful nature.

While I often ask God to remove trials from me and to keep me from pain, I have been molded and shaped the most in the valleys of life.

The valleys are where fruit is produced- not on the mountaintops. God gives me mountaintops for a season to encourage me, but the real work of my faith happen in the valleys- in the everyday, mundane details of life.

Trials and suffering remind me that this earth is not my home, even though sometimes I’d really like for it to be. Trials bring me to my knees in humility. They cause me to confess that God is all I have when life lets me down and when hardships are just too heavy.

At the time, I often hate going through the valleys, but God has used them in my life to keep my focus and perspective on Christ. And somehow on down the road I end up being thankful for them. I’m thankful that God grew me and that I’m not the same person I was.

At the end of the day, none of us are alone in the struggles of life, whatever they might be. Our hope is in Jesus alone and one day, our pain and tears will be no more. We have a great hope awaiting us!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4

The song You Hold Me Now has encouraged my faith in so many ways lately. I first heard it during worship at Watermark Church in Dallas and I fell in love with it. It is such a beautiful expression of Revelation 21:4. Here it is played at the gorgeous Hillsong Chapel in Australia.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7vYqu_Y3VI]

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